By The Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Whom do you serve? This question in today’s world seems out of sync, maybe even unnecessary. We don’t think of ourselves as servants particularly, though, if we think a little more, some answers may emerge.
We serve customers in our businesses. We serve editors and readers in our writing. We serve teachers at school if we are students, or students and administrators if we are teachers. We serve the poor, or at least our church does.
This question begins quickly to get personal and even a little disturbing. The truth is most of us serve ourselves most of the time. What isn’t obviously self-serving, Freud pointed out, probably still was. We serve ourselves, but the Bible seems to indicate that something else is more desirable.
Jesus put on a towel at the last supper and served his disciples; then he told them to do the same to each other. And he was their master. He brought them to the place of mutual servanthood, communal humility. When we serve each other in the name of God and don’t lord it over each other, we enter a new kind of ethical relationship; we enter the Rule of God.
Mutual servanthood in community means I don’t have to watch after my own needs; they will be watched after by those around me. I am to watch after other people’s needs and help to meet them. This mutuality is fluid and in some ways difficult because it relies on each being in discipleship to Christ in order to grow out of selfish and self-centered ethics and religion into a self that is loved and healthy enough to be appropriately other-centered.
So what does all of this have to do with gratitude? Here at Grace we are all taking tentative steps into mutual servanthood, and, if you are anything like me, you discover that your happiness is less in getting your own plate of food at the feast than in taking one to someone else and finding one already at your place.
When you stop and pay attention, you discover that the world is already like this. This way is humble and honest, and it allows us to live and act gracefully with one another. I am constantly overwhelmed by the small and great acts of grace. As we serve together and realize how blessed we are, our reach of Grace moves outward naturally, and our hands go up in praise to the Creator whom we discover weaving our small acts together in unexpected ways.
This is the life of Grace. We root ourselves in God’s will through our worship and study, and then we find ourselves provided for and used by God to welcome and serve others. It is a dance, a feast, a joyous life.
In serving God and each other, we do find ourselves as servants. This is no demotion though. Because as servants in God’s Rule, we become heirs, children of God and a royal priesthood, bringing the grace of God to a world that is longing for love.